That’s what I call confidence


This [book] earned considerable praise from intelligent readers

This [book] enjoyed considerable praise from intelligent readers, who were astonished by the novelty of its subject matter, but there was no lack of malicious, evil critics who attacked it with sarcastic arguments and many attempted corrections. All of these, however, were stupid or obtuse.

So said Athanasius Kircher of one of his own books. The 17th century German Jesuit was an astonishing polymath with an opinion on everything from China to microbes to fossils to volcanoes to giraffes to Noah’s Ark, and, it is said, was the inventor of a cat piano that used the miaows of cats with pins stuck in their tails. You can read more about him here:




4 thoughts on “That’s what I call confidence

  1. Athanasius Kircher does sound conceited, and I don’t at all like the sound of his experiment with cats. I hope they got their own back by scratching him!

    We have a convention in this country of authors not responding to negative reviews, by debating or arguing with the reviewer, but I must say I’ve sometimes longed to myself, especially when the reviewer makes factual errors. (I remember one who referred to me throughout her review as Dorothy Porter: you’d think the literary editor would have picked this up.)

    Your post also reminded me of poor old Balzac, who was driven by despair to write his own reviews. (Not worth the effort, I would have thought, and very embarrassing when you’re found out.)

  2. We had an earlier post about authors descending to abuse like “fatarse” (Martin Amis) or threatening to set the FBI onto critical reviewers. Athanasius obviously had the superb confidence not to need to do that. But yes, it must be very hard to hold your tongue when a reviewer makes outright errors of fact, and it certainly must dent your confidence in the reviewer and the literary editor who even get your name wrong!

  3. Hi Antonio, thanks for your comment and also for liking our posts on your blog. I think Athanasius Kircher definitely thought he was “more evolved in talent”- and actually, he was! Amazing man.

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